Adrian Singh, Alfredo Singh, Yeeta Singh.....
There are about three hundred such Argentine Singhs… mostly in Salta and other northern provinces of Argentina.
I met about seventy of them in the Gurudwara at Rosario de la Frontera, a small town of 35000 people in Salta province. I joined their Baishaki Day celebrations on 20 April. There were prayers and ceremonies conducted by a Granthi, who has been brought from India. There was a community lunch prepared by the ladies and was served by the men. The Gurudawara is clean, beautiful and inspires divine feelings. They have get togethers on Sundays and there are large gatherings on special religious occasions. Mr Charan Singh who came thirty years back from India is the president of the Gurudwara committee.This is the only Gurudwara in South America.
These Singhs had come in the thirties from India. Some of them came to work in the sugar mills owned by the British. Others got into the ships from Calcutta on hearing that they were going to America. They did not know that the destination was South America. Most of them originated from near Ludhiana. Dante Singh´s father was one of the earliest to come. He was also a political organiser. He collected money from other sikhs and sent it for the independence movement in India. The last batch of the immigrants came about ten years back. But no more are coming due to visa difficulties. Some of the Argentine Singhs have migrated to USA and Canada.
There are a few new Singhs who have come to other parts of Argentina. Lamba, with his flashy red turban, is a traffic stopper in Buenos Aires. He is settled here for over twenty years in handicrafts business. Simmarpal Singh is in Rio Cuarto near Cordoba city managing 15000 hectares of peanut farm for the Non-resident Indian company Olam.
President Zail Singh had visited Salta and met the community during his state visit to Argentina in 1984. Dante Singh was proud showing me fotos of this visit and also the fotos of his father meeting Zail Singh in Rashtrapathi Bhavan in Delhi.
Some of the first generation wear turbans. But when they travel outside the province, they put on caps to avoid curious looks and questions.
All the Singhs have become Argentine citizens and are well integrated into the local society. Among the first generation, some men married Indian women and brought them, while the others have married Argentines. The Singhs are in business or work as professionals. Many of them own supermarkets, corner stores and transport companies. Dante Singh and Adrian Singh are engineers. Jasbel Singh is studying international affairs and wants to become a diplomat. She recalls with pride her six months-stay in Noida studying television and broadcast journalism. One Mr Ruben Singh is there already in the Argentine Foreign Service. I hope an Argentine Singh will become Ambassador to India. Monika Singh is a software engineer working with Oracle in Buenos Aires. Yeetu Singh gives Indian dance classes and has done some Indo-Argentine fusion in dance. The second and third generation, which goes to school and college is keen to know more about India and talk about it proudly with their classmates.
Here is Dante Singh at the entrance of the Gurudwara:
Here I am, giving a speech holding the a microphone in hand, with my head covered. But a microscope is needed to recognise me....
In my speech, I spoke about how proud India is to see the Singhs speaking in Punjabi and worshipping in a Gurudwara in this part of the world. While recognising the suffering and sacrifice made by their parents and grand parents, I mentioned that in the India of today and tomorrow, there is no need for Indians to go out for a better life. Foreigners come to India for working in Bangalore.
Here is Kanwaljeet Singh with his son Gurdeep, who has asked for an Indian flag for his school and books in spanish on India.
All the Singhs in Salta region speak fluent Spanish. Besides the first generation, even some young people from the second generation speak Punjabi enthusiastically. Virtually no one speaks English. I had to give my speech in Spanish. Hmm....A Tamil from India communicating with the Punjabis in the Gurudwara in Argentina in Spanish !